Twenty years ago, Nancy Sheetz's two daughters were out of the house, and she was looking for something to do.
A friend who regularly volunteered for Sister Paula DelGrosso's Food for Families suggested that Sheetz join her there. She's been helping at the soup kitchen-food bank ever since - but the help has gone way beyond dishing up mac and cheese.
On Tuesday, DelGrosso showed off the latest results of that "above and beyond" help: a matched 16-by-24-foot walk-in cooler and freezer.
(Mirror photo by William Kibler)
Sister Paula DelGrosso (right) talks about the latest donation to Food for Families on Tuesday. A $22,000 donation from Nancy and Steve Sheetz (left) allowed the local food pantry to purchase a 16-by-24-foot walk-in cooler and freezer. Talking to Steve Sheetz is Joe Arthur, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank of Harrisburg.
Bought with a donation of $22,000 from Sheetz and her husband, Steve, and an equal amount from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank of Harrisburg, the equipment will enable DelGrosso's food bank to beef up its role as distributor of donated food from the Harrisburg bank to participating food pantries in this area.
It will help those pantries not only fulfill the increased demand for charity food resulting from the continued poor economy, but also will help ensure more of that food is of good nutritional quality.
That includes produce DelGrosso can store in the cooler and meats and vegetables she can store in the freezer.
Previously, the Harrisburg food bank could only send substantial quantities of dry goods when it made deliveries to Food for Families for distribution to the local pantries, CPFB Executive Director Joe Arthur said.
The new cold-storage capacity enables the Harrisburg food bank to include a much bigger variety of foods, enough so that it now makes sense to send tractor-trailers here, Arthur said. It includes items like healthful frozen heat-in-microwave vegetables that are past their sell-by dates but within their use-by dates, he said.
This increase in quantity of food is in keeping with a 70 to 80 percent increase in demand over the last several years, since the economy soured, Arthur said.
Dick Weber, director of The Father's House pantry and The Father's Table kitchen at the Nehemiah Project in Lower Fairview, appreciates the bigger menu.
He recently obtained a load of peaches.
"There are discounted products [available at Food for Families] you couldn't get anywhere else," he said.
The Sheetzes have contributed about $500,000 over the years to Food for Families, DelGrosso said.
His wife called his attention to the cause and introduced him to DelGrosso, said Steve Sheetz, chairman of Sheetz Inc.
"I like to get involved where there are passionate leaders," he said.
DelGrosso provides "a lot more than lunch," Steve Sheetz said.
She gives her clients a chance to socialize and "a sense of belonging," he said.
"A kind of community," he said. "Food is just kind of a means to an end."
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.